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Goodbye 2017 - My Year in Review

I can't believe another year has come and gone - all of the clients, sweet faces and families that I photographed woven into my memory like a dream, and yet here I am - typing out my first blog on Jan 1st, 2018 at 8:32 in the morning - full of hope and wonder at what this new year will bring.

It feels like 2017 was extra tough for lots of people, myself included. It felt like a year for saying goodbye to some long-held dreams of mine - and in doing so couldn't quite seem to find my "purpose" anymore.

Amidst the struggle and darkness that I felt through the last year, there were so many peeks of sunshine....and this blog is dedicated to those. To the projects, photos, people and experiences that brought me the most joy...these are the things that kept me searching to find that new Purpose...

It was a goal of mine for 2017 to do a commercial children's shoot, and January delivered with a bang. I shot my very first catalog shoot for the gorgeous baby and children's line, Bestaroo (you gotta check it out if you're a mama). This process was SO enjoyable for me - not only did I shoot the catalog, but fully produced the entire shoot, including creating the story board for the images, providing all of the models, coordinating the timeline and the overall production from start to finish. The owner could not have been more easy to work with - I definitely hit a gold mine with her as my first commercial client, and I could not be happier at how these sweet images turned out. I only wish she made adult sized versions of these outfits!! 

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In February, I began the process of incorporating my business, and found an amazing attorney to help me along in the process. He and I had worked on a fun shoot for his law office earlier in 2016, which turned out to be one of my favorites. I love it when clients become more than just a one-time shoot! 

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March brought me one of my favorite Maternity images as of yet - I'm not quite sure what it is that I just love so deeply about this photograph, but it definitely made me want to focus more on studio lighting with my maternity clients, and pushed me toward using different studio lighting techniques - more of which you will certainly see in my work in 2018. Isn't she just STUNNING?

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In April, even though I had never considered teaching, I found myself giving photography lessons to a beautiful young aspiring photographer. I cannot tell you how rewarding this has been for me as a photographer. Watching her take in my words and examples and using them to form her own eye through our lessons - I highly recommend this for any professional photographer, even if you only take on ONE student! My goal for 2018 is to give a class for mothers that want to learn how to take photos of their children and babies at home! Who is in? 

May brought in some of my favorite mommies for my annual Mothers Day Mini sessions and boy were they gorgeous! Inside and OUT! I created my own props for our mini sessions and absolutely loved everything about how they turned out. I realized quickly this year that I enjoy creating things for my sessions, and the creation of my "flower sash"  was ridiculously fun.

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"June Gloom" brought cloudy skies to the beach, but as I tell all of my clients "clouds are our friend" and "friend" they definitely proved to be for this gorgeous maternity session with one of my favorite mommies ever. 

This family became part of my own San Diego family this year - so not only is it fitting that their gorgeous photos are in this blog, but more-so the importance of how precious the relationships are that this job brings into my life. This family was certainly one of the biggest highlights of my year...

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Another goal for 2017 was to shoot more Fitness related photography - and wow did 2017 deliver on that front! Starting with this Beauty, who I've decided to make my new BFF in 2018 (even though she doesn't know it yet - heehee). I shot her very first commercial shoot for her online Nutrition and Fitness website (currently being built, but you can catch her on Instagram until then @drdebbiebright) and watched her launch her own business and kick some serious a** at it in her first few months! 

I cannot tell you how incredible it is to watch your clients flourish in their own way - and watching this girls' year has DEFINITELY been inspiring to me. 

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In July, I conquered my fear of shooting newborn twins and had one of the best, dare-i-say, EASIEST newborn sessions I've ever had! And with TWINS?! Just look at these beauties! 

Its funny how your perception of something you're so scared of can change completely once you just make the decision to do it. These little babes definitely sparked a love of twin sessions in me and I can't wait to do more of them this year! 

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Earlier in the year, I had a client come to me for a simple 30 minute corporate headshot session and we sort of fell in love as ladies during her session. 

It's fun to think that any given day might bring your most important new challenge for the year, or your new BFF, or someone whose request is going to push you to the limits that you had been hoping for, but too scared to do without a deadline. She turned out to be THAT client, as she asked for a custom set for her corporate office shoot and I was beyond excited to deliver for her.

I spent over a month in August coming up with and building the set for her shoot, hand painting and building each component of the shoot myself (aside from the canvases). There were lots of hurdles along the way that made this session extra challenging (including the canvases NOT fitting in my elevator upon delivery), but extra extra fun for me, and truly some of my favorite corporate photography work as of yet.

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Something close to my heart this year was to really highlight WOMEN and their beauty at all ages (more on this in 2018), but I was SUPER excited to be able to do a few mature female photoshoots this year, where women walked into the studio feeling shy and uncertain and walked out feeling empowered, bold and SEXY. 

September was the month for making this happen and I'm MOST proud of the way these women expressed that these shoots made them feel. Not only when they saw the outcome of the photos, but during the shoot itself, which I think is SO important. What woman couldn't stand a little more of feeling sexy in her life?

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It was also a HUGE goal of mine to do more at-home newborn sessions and I specifically wanted a shoot with two loving daddies. I couldn't have gotten more lucky than this loving same-sex Los Angeles family. 

How lucky is this little girl to have these two gorgeous adoring fathers to raise her? I literally swoon every single time I look at these photos!!! 

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October was full to the gills. My busiest month of the year by far and there were SO many things to love about October. 

I had a client who found herself sexy again after recently having a baby. I cannot tell you the reward that is in this for me! It's quite literally EVERYTHING to me to make a woman feel good about herself - no amount of money that I make comes close to the feeling that this gives me - ESPECIALLY for mothers!!

   

 

 

In October, I also shot my first surrogate-included newborn session - and learned a story of Love that literally gives me goosebumps every time I think about it. How beautiful is this family!??

   

 

 

I saw So many of my newborn clients' babies turn ONE! Eek - I don't know how you parents do it! It's hard for me to see your babies grow up - how do you handle this?? Just LOOK at these cuties enjoying their Cake Smash Sessions!

   

 

 

October brought a huge surprise of my first Tiffany Allen Photography television commercial shoot (stay tuned in 2018!), which I was totally NOT expecting! This was DEFINITELY a highlight for me...although nerve-wrecking for an introvert! Eek!

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November was a blur of holiday minis that brought lots of smiles and a few tears - even a middle finger here and there (lol)! Some of the funniest shoots happen during the holiday mini sessions and I swear I can't wait to get a holiday card one day that only shows the bloopers from these sessions - they are TOO funny! Here are a few of my favorites...

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I also got to travel in November to shoot a beautiful couple's wedding in Puerto Vallarta - if you haven't yet visited this part of Mexico, go book it right now! That's an order! 

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And then December came around.....and (for some reason) left me feeling like 2017 hadn't been all that successful. In fact, I'm pretty sure I spent a whole day crying over it. A whole day feeling like I hadn't really met many of my goals and that what I had done over the year hadn't been such a big deal. That I could have done more. That I could have helped more people. That I could have stretched myself further. That I could have learned more.

And this is why this post was and is so important for me - and I hope it inspires you to take a 2nd look at your year too..because as I read through these months I see that all was NOT lost. In fact, step by step and month by month, I accomplished almost all of the things that I had hoped to do and there were little (and BIG) bursts of sunlight in my life that wouldn't have been possible without doing this job....and only this job.

Sometimes, none of us know what we are "here for". What our "purpose" is...or if we're on the "right path". I know some of you felt that in 2017 too....

But its become a little more clear to me that my "purpose", albeit perhaps a small one in the world, is to do what I can to make people FEEL and see the love that surrounds them and that lives inside of them. And in turn, I get a little bit of it back myself through your stories...through your families, through your triumphs, through YOUR challenges and growth...but mostly (and most importantly)...through your smiles and through your love.

So...with that said, I hope you've found a way to celebrate the sparkles of your 2017, regardless of how big or small they may have been. I hope you found things to celebrate and to be rewarded by. I hope you were surrounded by love - even for tiny moments. Because YOUR moments of 2017 turned into mine...and I thank you SO much for sharing them with me.

Here's to 2018! I'm coming for more...

5 Reasons to Book a Baby's First Year Package

You just found out your pregnant with your first child (Congrats!) and now there are a million details to sort out and things to think of as a newly expectant parent. Time to buy a million books on what to expect as a pregnant woman, and lots of doctors visits to plan, a baby shower to think of, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, what birth plan you're thinking of - not to even mention the baby's room planning! Eek! 

Many times newly expecting mommies and daddies get caught up in all of the little details of HAVING a baby and forget about documenting the time leading up to the birth as well as the time after the baby is born - and believe you me - its gone in a flash!

Here are our top 10 Reasons for Booking a Baby's First Year Photography Package. This way you can leave the documentation details to the professionals, so you can get back to picking baby's room paint colors and planning out your birth program!

1) You will never be able to recreate these moments. Ever. This is undeniably the most important reason for doing the Baby's First Year sessions. Even if you have other children in the future, you'll never be pregnant with THIS child again, and you'll never see his or her first tooth peek through again. It might sound like a sad or sappy way to look at it, but I cannot tell you how many parents come in with their second child and the mother is almost in tears because she never had maternity photos or newborn photos done with her first child...and it is something that I have heard at least 1000 times - how much they regretted not doing it for one reason or another. Most commonly because of financial reasons. Which leads me to point 2...

2) Baby's First Year Packages can be put on a payment plan and have the biggest discounts available through our company! Whoo hoo! Who doesn't love an affordable way to get the best quality photos?! Now that's some good news we know you'll love!

 

As this is the MOST common reason that parents don't go for the Maternity and Newborn photos, we decided to create a plan that helped out a little bit with this, and our Baby's First Year clients LOVE it. 

Not only do you get to put the entire package on a payment plan instead of having these large chunks due during an already financially challenging time of your life, but you also get the biggest discounts of ANY of our clients when booking a package like this. 

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Newborn Family Photography San Diego

3) Your baby will change so fast that your head will swim - and without photos to document their stages, its so hard to remember how tiny and sweet they were when they were 5 days old. Or how precious their little hands were wrapped around your finger or placed softly on your chest during breastfeeding. You might forget how cute that first set of silly teeth were or how funny their gummy little smile looked. Memories fade over time and the sweetest moments get lost in the day to day struggles and movements that happen with life. Having these regularly documented stages during the first year helps keep the best parts of a baby tiny and in your heart for as long as possible - even after their off to college!

4) Long Distance friends and family get to experience the stages of your baby's first year - even if they can't be nearby to touch, see or hear it.

This one is big for a lot of people. Especially living in San Diego where we have so many military personnel. I hear it all the time - my mom wants to see photos of the baby and I just don't have time to take any! Or "his/her father is deployed right now and hasn't even met them yet - I need photos to show him how big they are getting".  I know from personal experience of my nephews being in Texas, that photos help keep your family close and involved in your progress and the baby's life and there's no better gift to a grandparent, auntie or spouse that photos of their little one's growth and changes.

5) Your photographer really gets to know your needs and desires for your photography in the best possible way.

Imagine if every time you went to the doctor you saw a different doctor - the rapport and comfort that you need to feel would be missing. We're not likening photography to a doctors visit, but we will say that photography makes almost everyone feel a little bit vulnerable. Working with the same photographer through multiple and regular stages of your baby's life really builds a rapport that you can trust and count on - and that your photographer will be able to get the most creative with as well! Plus, you'll really have a friend at the end of it and if they're anything like me - an adopted auntie!

If you're not yet sure about a Baby's First Year Plan, call us to set up a complimentary consultation in studio, so we can show you around and discuss any questions or concerns that you might have. You'll never regret it!

Nine Critical Questions That Will Distinguish An Amateur From A Professional Photographer

1) "How many Maternity/Newborn/Cake Smash/Family Shoots Have You Done?"  

Your photographer doesn't have to be educated at the finest university or have worked next to Annie Liebowitz to be an AMAZING photographer, but they DO need to have a lot of experience (and experience that they can visually SHOW you) in their field. There is nothing that teaches a photographer more than having shot a lot, a whole lot, of sessions! Ask your photographer for multiple galleries similar to what you're hoping to create so that you can see that they have consistently understood the type of shoot that you're looking for and that their work is more broad than the 10 or so shots on their website. A well experienced photographer should be able to say that they've shot hundreds of sessions like yours and be able to show you at least 5 galleries similar to what you're asking them to do.

Not only that, but if you're selecting a newborn photographer you need to know that this person knows how to handle a newborn, 5 or 6 day old baby, with confidence and EXPERIENCE. Would you want a brand new Doctor handling your baby? No way! Experience cannot be over-stated in the way of importance for baby or child photography.

2) "Are You A Part Time or Full Time Photographer?"

This is an easy one to overlook as there are many, many websites out there claiming to be professional, but in reality these photographers shoot 1-2 sessions per month and call themselves professional. THAT is not a professional photographer. That is a hobbyist photographer or an amateur that wants to make some money on the side and does not understand the full range of needs of a client - particularly when it comes to maternity and newborn photography. This goes back to experience in a way...someone that is shooting 40 sessions a month and someone that is shooting 4 sessions a month are not the same level of photographer. Knowing the right questions to ask makes ALL the difference.

3) "Have You Been Vaccinated?"

This one might be of some controversy to some people that are anti-vaccinations, but when it comes to your 5-day old vulnerable newborn baby, trust me - you want a vaccinated photographer that has vaccinated staff! This is another question that almost never gets asked, but is definitely one that you want to consider when choosing your child's photographer.

4) "What Is Your Process and Timeline of the Shoot to Delivery?" 

This will give you a very clear idea of who is a professional or not, and it's going to be a little bit counterintuitive when I say it. IF you find a photographer that says they can have your images back to you in the same day or in a few days, they are likely not a full-time photographer and are doing very few shoots and have the time to return things quickly to you because they don't have a lot of other clients - which goes back to what?

EXPERIENCE.

A sought after and professional photographer will have to divide their time between shooting, editing, reviewing, consulting, retouching and delivering their photos to multiple clients per week. This leaves their schedule with less capacity to turn things around quickly, but is actually a BENEFIT to you in that they are much more experienced and their end result will likely be better than someone that guarantees quick turn around times.

5) "Is Retouching Included?"

This one is huge and too many times, is not included in the right way to meet the final expectations of a client. Many photographers say that "retouching" is included, but the word "Retouching" gets confused with "editing" many times. There are three processes to a professional photographers work: 1) Shoot 2) Edit 3) Retouch. Retouching is what sets a good photo apart from a GREAT photo. If a photographer has perfect conditions, perfectly behaved and on-time clients including their children/babies and an unlimited amount of time - you MIGHT get a photo that needs literally nothing. But this isn't reality. Especially when photographing newborns or children. In fact, it's the OPPOSITE of the situation a photographer has to work with - and need to succeed with!

Retouching is the bridge in that gap. I cannot tell you how many times I literally have the perfect shot on my camera and then when I download the images, there is a piece of food on the baby's face, or a slightly closed eye or a person that entered the background JUST at the perfect moment. Retouching PERFECTS the images. Editing is not retouching. Editing is doing basic lighting and tone changes or cropping a photo. Editing doesn't change the actual content of the image itself. It doesn't touch the pixels. Retouching does.

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6) "Can I Print The Images Anywhere I Want?"

Again, this answer might sound counterintuitive to you - because most people WANT to be able to print anywhere they want and feel that they should be given this right. HOWEVER, a PROFESSIONAL photographer will NOT allow this for two critical reasons:

1) To protect the quality of your images

2) To protect their reputation as a professional photographer

I cannot stress this enough. Professional print labs are the ONLY way to print the images you've invested in. It's like spending $200,000 on a sports car to get a 100-horsepower engine put in it. Looks good on the outside - but doesn't work like it's supposed to.

A professional photographer SHOULD have their own professional print lab that they work with to ensure the quality of your images are being printed in a way that shows the image in the best possible color and quality. Discount printers such as Costco, Walgreens or Kodak print quick and print cheap yes, but also print INCORRECT color, tone and quality of the image because they are using discount printers and paper.

Professional print labs print with printers that use hundreds of colors instead of 3-5 colors that a discount print lab uses. If you print from Costco, your prints will come out with a reddish tone versus a blue tone at Walgreens. This is not what you paid all of that money on professional photography for! Additionally, the paper that a professional print lab prints on retains the color of your images and won't fade with sunlight over time.

A professional photographer cares about quality over anything else and their reputation depends on that quality being consistent from client to client. If they let printing be done anywhere, where quality is NOT a top priority, it diminishes and waters down the quality of their own work and therefore the reputation that they have as a quality photographer. If your photographer does not have a professional print lab they work with, you can be assured they are not a true professional photographer.

7) Are You a Natural Light or Studio Light Photographer or Both?

A professional photographer understands lighting. Period. Not only studio lighting and not ONLY natural lighting. A professional photographer can shoot you in studio just as well as they can shoot you outdoors. There are always certain limitations where lighting is concerned, so when booking your photographer, be sure to ask if they know how to shoot outdoor as well as indoor. This will tell you a TON about the level of professionalism your photographer has. Also, listen for THEIR questions to you about what time your shoot is. If they don't direct you to a certain time of day or ask what available light there is indoor at your location - they likely have no clue what they're doing and are "winging it".  

8) Do you use Professional Quality Lenses, Cameras and Lighting?

While I have to say that this is the least important thing on the list, I am going to include it because equipment does absolutely affect the quality of the final images. That doesn't mean that someone can't be a true professional with less than professional quality cameras and lenses, but certainly they help! Here in this studio, we use the top of the line studio lighting, cameras and equipment.

9) Do You Provide a Consultation Prior to the Shoot?

While this doesn't necessarily guarantee a professional and lack of a consultation doesn't mean someone is an amateur, I feel that it is certainly an important addition to the "best quality photographer" checklist. A professional will want to know as much as they can and help YOU know as much as you can about them, their work and their studio so that you can together have the best relationship and understanding moving forward with your desired shoot. We offer a complimentary consultation either via phone or in person to any of our full session clients as a way to help you understand the quality of the work that we do. Professional photography is certainly an investment and as such, we give our time to it in a way that helps you feel like you're going to get the best experience possible.

We hope this post helps you when considering how to select a photographer. Keep in mind that as with most things that need to last a lifetime - you get what you pay for!

BEHIND THE SCENES OF A NEWBORN SESSION

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If you've ever wondered how on earth photographers get all those cute, sleepy babies into perfect position for their photos, you're not alone.

As Tiffany's part-time assistant, I had often wondered the same thing, until I witnessed my first newborn photography session with Tiffany.

 

Prior to working for Tiffany, I'd see pictures of newborns and think,

                      "Awww, how cute!

             ...But wait how do they get their arms to stay like that? (And is it safe?)"

 

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I have a background in several different photography business-related areas, but understanding how to handle a 12-day old baby on the set of a photo shoot was definitely not in my repertoire.

Which is why within the first week of my new job, the night before an early morning newborn shoot, I asked Tiffany, in slightly nervous fashion,

                 "Umm, can I come watch?"

She laughed and smiled.

                "Of course! It'll be good training for you to see what goes on behind the scenes. Just be prepared — newborns can be a challenge."


HEALTH + SAFETY


I arrived the next morning around 8 a.m. Tiffany greeted me at the door with a hug; her hair pulled back in a Pinterest-worthy bun and a fresh cup of coffee in her hands.

"Morning sweetie."

I set my purse down on a chair and looked around. "Wow, the studio is immaculate."

She covered her mouth for a small yawn. "Yeah, my cleaning team was here at 6."

I shook my head. "Your house cleaner comes at 6 a.m.?"

She smiled and nodded.

I have the studio professionally cleaned and sanitized before every newborn shoot. When you work so closely with babies, you need to be careful.

(Not sure why that should've been news to me, but alas, it was.)


THE STUDIO SETTING


"Would you like any tea or coffee?"

Our 9 a.m. clients had arrived with their little bundle in tow and were seated on the couch, awaiting the magic to begin.

I headed back to the kitchen, passing Tiffany in the hall as she carried out a box of newborn wraps and blankets.

You mentioned earlier that you liked more of the gray tones, but I’ve got some really pretty whites as well.

Tiffany and our new mom client began to sort through the box, pairing adorable little wool hats and wraps with several of our simple newborn props.

 

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THE REAL MAGIC: TIFFANY'S TOUCH


Can I hold her?

The studio was silent. Tiffany stood holding the baby — not even 2 weeks old; gently rocking her back and forth.

Her parents and I stood watching, the sound of the heater buzzing.

I had no idea she would be interacting this much with the baby, I thought. Standing there observing her carefully lay her down on a big fluffy blanket.

(I'd always assumed that the parents would be handling the baby.)

This repeated about ten more times. (Cry, calm, position. Cry, calm, re-position.)

20 minutes later, when the baby was finally into perfect place, I looked at our clients and smiled. Now fully understanding why our newborn sessions are 3 hours long!

Several outfit changes, prop switch outs, feedings, diaper changes, and atmospheric mommy/daddy/baby photos later, our clients were out the door. A bit tired, but excited to see all of their beautiful photos.

I turned and smiled at Tiffany.

Uh, we got so many cute shots! And how much do you love their little family? I swear we have the nicest clients.

THE PHOTO REVIEW PROCESS


Two weeks later this same little family of 3 was back in the studio, sitting in front of Tiffany's large screen computer. Choosing their final selections, and discussing their retouching requests.

Tiffany was so knowledgeable in her explanation. ("Not to worry, we can retouch the diaper rash on her butt. And the same for the bruises on her leg, which I'm assuming are from birth?")

I made a mental note to ask her after the session: How do you know all this stuff?! (And how are you so good at understanding babies?)

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Apparently I wasn't the only curious one though, because not 10 seconds later did our first-time daddy client lean in and ask Tiffany exactly that.

She sat back in her chair and let out a small sigh.

You know, I’ve read and researched a lot (and I mean like, A LOT). But also, I just really love babies. And I guess the reason I’ve been successful in my photography is because I’ve been able to combine both.

THE REWARD OF MEMORIES


Following the photo review, a couple more weeks passed and we'd finally sent over all finalized photos.

We received a near instant reply.

Tiffany — We can’t tell you how grateful we are for these photos! We’re in absolute love with them! THANK YOU!

I saw the email come through and smiled. Wow, no wonder this is her dream job!

Still not sure about booking a newborn session with us? Set up a free in-person consultation with Tiffany herself by calling us at 619-458-6394.